Within our collection we have many species of Philodendron.
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Philodendron maximum K. Krause
One of the world's largest Philodendron
Common name: "huembe"(Bolivia)
New information within botanical science continues to emerge regarding this species. More photos have been added to this page to show a second specimen that also closely matches the scientific description. This author is not a taxonomist and cannot comment on which plant (possibly both) is correctly Philodendron maximum. The leaf blades of the second even larger specimen seen below measure close to 2 meters (6 feet). The photo identified with Jessie Offolter and the photo with both Sam and Enid Offolter of Natural Selections Exotics are the larger "form" found in Ecuador. The leaf with Sam and Enid appears shorter due to the angle since the lens and angle can modify the appearance. The photos of Leland Miyano and of Sam Offolter are of the same "type" as seen in the top on this page.
Philodendron species are known to be variable. Not every leaf of every specimen will always appear the same. Once you read this article we suggest you also read the page linked just below explaining natural variation. Both specimens shown on this page appear to be a match to the scientific description.
Although this text contains botanical terms, every effort has been made to explain all the terms in language a collector can use and understand But the question may now be is the plant at the top of this page correctly Philodendron maximum, or is it the second specimen shown below? Could it be possible both are the same species and each is a natural variation of the same species?
Those and other questions are still being studied by botanical scientists. The following link explains in easily understood language the botany of natural variation: Click here.
Described and published scientifically in 1913, Philodendron maximum can be found from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil at elevations of 106 to 800 meters (350 to 2,625 feet) above sea level. A member of Philodendron subsection Psoropodium, this large Philodendron is found in both tropical moist rain forests and tropical wet forest regions. But which is the plant that correctly matches the published description by K. Krause? The plant at the top of the page, or the one seen to the left and below?
According to information furnished by aroid botanist Dr. Tom Croat of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Philodendron maximum can be found growing in old leaf bases on palms, especially Attalea phalerata known as Scheelea. Palm, aroid and cycad expert Leland Miyano explains more regarding that palm, "Attalea phalerata is a massive palm. Think of a coconut on steroids. The leaf bases are persistent for decades and great quantities of humus collects in them. Whole communities of organisms can live in this detritus and this compost is superior to the best potting soil one could . Each leaf base can collect gallons of humus and debris, so Philodendron maximum on this palm would have an excellent nutrient supply." Leland, shown in the photo to the right below, also added this additional suggestion regarding growing Philodendron maximum, "I was also keenly interested in Attalea phalerata Mart. ex. Spreng. There are several names surrounding this palm including Scheelea phalerata (Mart.) Burret, which is a synonym according to Kew. However, the most interesting observation is that this palm is abundant in dry forests and open areas, so this would give the grower of Philodendron maximum a clue as to light requirements and watering schedule." A synonym is simply an additional scientific name for the same species, often no longer in scientific use.
Often stated to be one of the world's largest Philodendron species, the type specimen of Philodendron maximum was described from a specimen located in Brazil at Rio Paraguassu in November, 1911. A type specimen is the original plant examined by a botanist and determined to the any individual species.
Philodendron maximum is known to be a plant capable of beginning life as a seed deposited by a bird on a tree limb which then sends roots to the ground or as a seed on the ground which germinates and then attaches itself to a tree and begins to climb. To a botanist, these types of plants are known as hemiepiphytes. This species is not known to climb to extreme heights and is typically seen at only 3 to 3.5 meters on the side of a host tree (approximately 10 to 11.5 feet). But what the Philodendron lacks in apparent climbing ability, it makes up for with leaf size.
Adult specimens of Philodendron maximum are found with leaf blades that are narrowly ovate to sagittate or ovate to triangularly sagittate. The botanical term "sagittate" simply means arrow shaped. So the leaf blade is both arrow shaped and slightly oval.
Adult leaf blades can range in size from as small as 67cm (2.2 feet) but are more commonly 109 to 165cm (3.6 to 5.4 feet) in length according to published statistics. The blades can range from 30 to 82cm (1 to 2.7 feet) in width but unusually large specimens have been measured at 100 cm (almost 3.3 feet) wide. The leaves (blades) are a semi-glossy medium green to dark green.
The cataphylls, which are formed around any new leaf as it is forming remain semi-intact after the new leaf blade is grown and measure 35 to 49cm (1.1 to 1.6 feet) in diameter. The cataphylls are bract like modified leaves that surround the new leaf and whose purpose is to protect the newly emerging leaves as it develops. The petioles which are the supports for the leaf are either "D" or "U" shaped with 2 raised marginal ribs. The "D" or "U" shape is a description of the shape of the petiole if seen cut as a cross section.
For those not familiar with botanical terminology, a petiole is the portion of the plant that attaches to the base of the leaf and supports the blade A petiole is commonly called a "stem". The blades are considered sub-coriaceous which indicates the leaves are just less than leathery to the touch. The leaves are slightly more glossy on the adaxial (upper) surface than the underside (abaxial surface). The lobes at the top of the leaf are sometimes overlapping but also may appear to have a closed sinus. The sinus is the area between the leaf lobes at the top of the blade.
There have been recent discussions among plant collectors and experts wondering whether the specimen in the photo at the top of this page truly is Philodendron maximum? Or could it be another specimen collected in Ecuador (see photo left)? Are both possibly variations of the same species or two separate species which are a close match to the scientific description. As you can see in the photos, one specimen has a much lighter green leaf blade and is also larger.
The areas of concern to experts include the cataphylls of the specimen which when dried are fibrous and similar in texture to a dried coconut husk. The cataphylls of the specimen shown on the top of this page do not dry in such a manner. For those unfamiliar with the botanical term, the cataphyll is the "sheath" which forms around any new leaf. In some plants it remains on the plant and is persistent. In others, it is not. As a result, some experts have expressed concern the plant illustrated at the top of this page may not be the true Philodendron maximum.
In an email from Dr. Croat received in mid December 2007, regarding the plant at the top, he stated, "Yes, your picture is indeed P. maximum. I have seen it in Brazil (Acre), Bolivia (Beni) and most recently in Colombia (Caquetá) but it is obviously pretty widespread. It is huge, in size ranking right up there with Philodendron gigas in Panama." Dr. Croat continued, "The species is well named owing to its very large size, being probably the largest of all Philodendron species in South America. It can be recognized by a combination of its large size, thick, short stems, persistent cataphylls and large sagittate blade with the margins usually sinuate and undulate."
The inflorescence (reproductive organ) of Philodendron maximum stands upright (erect) and a specimen is normally able to produce two complete spathes per axil. An inflorescence is composed of a spathe appearing to be a hood and spadix and is often referred to by plant collectors as a flower. In reality, the spathe is simply a modified leaf. As many as six inflorescences have been seen on mature plants in nature. The inflorescence is supported by a peduncle, the plant shaft that supports the inflorescence The peduncel can range in size from 27 to 37cm long (.9 to 1.2 feet) and 1.5 to 2cm (.6 to .78 inches) in diameter.
The spathe is medium to dark green and semi-glossy and is semi-erect and measures 17 to 25cm (6.7 to 9.85 inches) long. The spathe can also measure between 2.5 to 4cm (just less than 1 inch to 1.6 inches) in diameter. The interior of the spathe tube is heavily reddish in color changing abruptly to white. The berries produced on the spadix once pollinated have been noted as having a pungent scent and are yellowish brown to yellow in color.
The specimen in the photograph at the top of this page was on display at the 2007 International Aroid Show in Miami, FL.
Our specimen (not shown) currently has leaf blades measuring approximately 60cm (2 feet) and is growing climbing a plant totem in a fast draining soil mixture of porous soil, peat, Perlite™ and orchid potting media containing bark, charcoal and gravel. The soil mixture is kept slightly moist at all times. The technical scientific information in this article was supplied by Dr. Croat. My thanks for his providing a copy of his completed treatment of Philodendron maximum which will appear in his yet unpublished journal The Flora of Ecuador.
As stated in this text there is concern among some experts as to whether or not the specimen in the photograph at the very top of this page is the true Philodendron maximum as originally described by Krause in 1913. Discussions among botanical experts are certainly not uncommon. It would appear to this untrained collector more than a single large Philodendron species may potentially match the original description Especially the specimens shown with future plants man Jesse Offolter as well as the plant shown with his parents who own Natural Selections Exotics in Fort Lauderdale, FL. That plant may possibly be unique to Ecuador.
Based on email messages, botanist Dr. Tom Croat has indicated his professional opinion appears to be the specimen illustrated in my photograph at the top of this page, as well as Enid's photo to the right of this text, is the species originally described. But others have offered a different opinion. In fairness to all those who have provided information, I am including his explanation received on 12/28/07. In that message he wrote, "I just went out to see the type of P. maximum and compared it with about 25 specimens of the species that I have made or others have made in Bolivia, Brazil and Peru. It matches favorably. Then I looked at Ron's material, I have filed under Phil. Ronweeksii. It is true that there is a small difference that seems to be lacking on the other material and that is that the minor veins are more prominulous. I just don't know if that is sufficient to call it a different species. My assumption that Ron's plant was P. maximum was based on observations of the live plant at the show. Perhaps I am wrong. It would be strange if P. maximum did not occur in Ecuador since it is widespread. I even saw it in Colombia in Caqueta in April and it is exactly like the material I saw in Acre and in Bolivia. In most cases it was growing in the leaf bases of a large palm, just like I saw it in Bolivia."
Last update, July 3, 2008: Is it possible these
plants are only natural
variations of the same species? I simply don't have the expertise to offer an opinion
but only to say both are beautiful! Many thanks to all the
and growers who provided additional information as well as photos including Enid Offolter of
Natural Selections Exotics in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
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